The dispute between homeowners of a subdivision and the developer of a vehicle storage lot on North Thornton Road escalated Thursday, Sept. 27, with a standoff between no trespassing signs and bulldozers.
The dispute is centered on the future of a 1.27-acre parcel of land located on a deep bend on Thornton Road that is owned by the Eagles View Subdivision Homeowners Association (EVHOA).
The formerly wooded parcel was cleared of all trees, along with an adjoining 65-acre parcel that developer Jimmy Smith is developing into a boat and RV storage facility.
Smith is on record as saying he thought he owned the parcel when he cleared it and when he learned he did not own it, he offered to buy it from the HOA as part of his development.
Smith said he feels that he made the homeowners a fair offer for the property.
“I offered them $10,000 and my half-acre of land across the street,” he said. “This is a generous offer for that property. If they don’t want to sell it, that’s OK. I can build my storage lot on my 65 acres in Franklin County. I don’t need their property.”
Disagreement over the future of the EVHOA parcel split the subdivision property owners who voted to remove the board of directors that had been in talks with Smith and elected a new slate of officers.
Last Thursday, a group of homeowners placed no trespassing signs on their parcel of land.
When bulldozers arrived to level fill dirt that had been dumped at the site, the homeowners called the police who told the equipment operators they were trespassing through EVHOA property to reach Smith’s property.
The bulldozer operators left the site, but Bill McLaren, McLaren Grading, returned and leveled the fill dirt on Smith’s portion of the property.
A group of six EV homeowners returned to the site Friday, Sept. 28, to place more No Trespassing signs on the parcel the EVHOA owns.
Denise Guay said the EVHOA had contracted Wunderlich Surveying and Engineering to survey the property and mark the property lines. She pointed to a row of orange flags on metal posts that outlined the parcel.
Homeowners were concerned that the bulldozers were using part of their property to access Smith’s property.
Smith obtained a commercial/industrial access permit for the site from the Franklin County Highway Department dated May 19, 2017. He also was granted a zoning permit by the Franklin County Planning and Zoning Department dated Jan. 11, 2017, for self-storage units to include boats and RVs.
“I have all the permits I need,” he said. “I don’t need their property.”
McLaren said he had a gentlemen’s agreement with Smith to dump fill dirt at the site. He said other contractors were hauling fill to the site and dumping it at the front of the site.
McLaren said he placed a large row of boulders in a half-moon arc at the front of the property to prevent others from dumping there.
“I’ve been hauling dirt there for six months and leveling it out,” he said. “I got tired of cleaning up the piles of fill dumped at the front of the site so I put the rocks there.”
McLaren said the homeowners had given him permission to enter their property to remove the bulldozer, but Smith wanted him to make one more pass at smoothing out the dirt so it will have a finished look.
“I’m going to do that,” McLaren said. “I want to accommodate both of them.”
Guay called Pacific Police to accompany homeowners at the site Sept. 28, just in case there was a disagreement with the property owner or anyone else who was trespassing.
“They asked for a civil standby,” said Officer Corey White. “We’re here for that.”
Officer Justin Carroll, who accompanied White, told homeowners that in order to cite someone for trespassing police would need to make a verbal notification to the individual as a first step.
“We’ll tell them they are trespassing, take their name and vehicle description and if we’re called that they trespass a second time we will cite them,” he said. “We’ll issue a summons and they’ll have to appear in municipal court.”
Officer Carroll suggested that the homeowners put in a good camera with a time and date stamp so they could verify who trespassed. He also noted that he and Officer White would make a complete report of their meeting at the site, along with a boundary map of the EVHOA property that would be available at the station.
“If a call comes into the station on a later shift all the officers will know where your property is and who has been warned,” he said.
Homeowners said they intended to meet with an arborist to create a plan for replanting the cleared area.
“We’re hoping for a plan of reforestation of small shrubs and foliage to fill in before the rains to prevent erosion,” said Clayton Roloff. “Some small bushes and maybe cypress trees could create a buffer in case someone ran off the road.”
Homeowner Mary Ostergaard said homeowners have been frustrated by Smith’s claim that he did not know he owned the property when he cleared it.
Homeowners provided The Missourian with a copy of a map that they said accompanied Smith’s zoning verification, which separated the Eagles View lot from the larger parcel of Smith’s property.
Ostergaard also said the good news out of all the discussion is that a large percentage of the homeowners have agreed on a process to determine a future course of action.
Homeowners met with Todd Billy, CMA attorney, to determine the best course of action in dealing with the property.
“We elected a new slate of officers with a large majority,” Ostergaard said. “We’re moving forward as a unified community.”
Smith said claims that he knew he owned the property are misleading.
“Not only did I not know I didn’t own it, they (Eagles View Homeowners) didn’t know (who owned it),” Smith said. “I don’t think the city of Pacific knew who owned it.
“Now that we all know who owns it this can move forward,” Smith said. “I’m going to build my storage lot and the homeowners will decide what to do with their land.”